Emergency Bulbasaur

I am very busy with work stuff, household chores, and estate administration stuff and will continue to be for the next couple weeks. Trying to prepare for a much needed summer break, falling behind on many things, stressed and overwhelmed.

The other day, my daughter decided to look up how to draw various Pokemon. She was super excited about her ability to draw Diglet, Dugtrio, and Jigglypuff. Then she decided she wanted to take requests, so I asked her for a Bulbasaur.

This immediately stressed her out. She tried to look up step-by-step how to draw instructions, and found some, but wasn’t happy with how things were turning out. She would get stuck after the first couple steps. (In part, because they didn’t really “look like a bulbasaur” until much farther on in the steps, when you erased and moved a bunch of lines)

She was whining about this a bit, while I was trying to work. I kept trying to give her quick bits of advice, and then putting headphones back on as soon as I felt she was unblocked. But sure enough, a couple minutes later, she would come back even more frustrated, which eventually got me frustrated.

She started crying, and so I asked her to take a few minutes to go to her room and calm down. Tried and true parenting trick, this also creates an opportunity for the parent to calm down, even if you never remember it until you actually do it.

What I realized is that I was trying to avoid the “interruption”, trying to get back to work, and that was a big part of what was guiding my behavior. But my daughter was both trying to build on her earlier success, and also make something for me, and her frustration stemmed from feeling like she wanted to do a good job and didn’t have the tools to do it herself.

I had the option of continuing to let her “tough it out” on her own, to try to teach her some sort of lesson about how to better control her emotions. But what I realized is, that wouldn’t be fun for me, or for her, and it might discourage her from spending time on creative things.

So instead, after a few minutes break for both of us, I had her sit down with me. I stopped what I was doing for I don’t know… 15 minutes… and I went line by line with her through the drawing. I’m not great at this stuff, not even close to good, but I do know some simple things, like how we need to “squish” certain things to make them look more natural, and stretch other things. How we need to erase and reshape lines when they seem out of place with the rest of the drawing, etc.

I walked her through all of that, explained what was going wrong at each step and why. Explained to her it’s normal to need to erase some things and try again, and that if she hasn’t drawn something many times before, all the small adjustments are just where the learning is happening.

Eventually, we got our end result. It was more than bulbasaur-ish enough for my daughter to proudly share with her brother and for him to say, “Wow, that’s a nice bulbasaur!”, which is really all that mattered.

This morning, my daughter showed me another little sketch she was working on. Another bulbasaur! And that one she was making all on her own…

The moral of the story? Sometimes drawing a bulbasaur with your kid is indeed an “emergency” and work can wait. It’s not that one moment that matters, but the message it sends when you give your kids the attention they need to grow, when they need it.

2021w20

This week comes the heat. Today, we’ll press up against 90 degrees.

Last night, my arms and legs were covered in sand and sweat and so many gnats. I thought a fire would have scared them away, but instead it just lit me up like a landing strip, saying “Free meal here.”

A year ago, today, I said I felt like I was suspended mid-air in a motorcycle jump away from the stable and stagnant and into a weird and wild unknown.

Well, I survived the leap. I did not fall down into the ravine, I did not crash and burn.

But a whole year later, I’m feeling like I’m racing through inter-dimensional portals. One moment, a lush rainforest, filled with greenery and wild and all sorts of birds flying in every direction, air thick and heavy, dew dripping from every smooth surface.

Then flash, I’m on a salt flat, nothing around for thousands of miles.

Flash again, I’m in some suburban hellscape filled with nothing but cul-de-sacks and minivans and all you can eat “pizza” buffets for $3.99.

Flash again and I’m 2000 feet beneath a glacier, ice pick in hand, carving out a narrow tube just wide enough to wiggle through, freezing cold but somehow not losing any heat, just chipping, one small shattered glass fractal at a time.

And then I’m on some wild contraption, some vaguely apocalyptic vehicle cruising through mud, oh so much mud. Just free-flowing and ever-present tectonic milkshakes, staining and swallowing everything.

Then I’m on a ladder, five miles high, scraping sky, while some pelicans pass by and squawk “It’s time, Let go.”

And I look down and there is a net, beneath another net, beneath another net, beneath another net, and I’m tempted. Even if one doesn’t hold, the next one will get me. And if not that one, then the next one, and if not that one, the next one.

Nobody deserves this many safety nets. And yet, there are my hands, gripped on cool steel, white knuckling, trying desperately to reach for yet another rung. Nothings there, but do I keep climbing? Try to Wile E. Coyote my way up?

Of course not. But… muscle memory.

The heart is a muscle, too.

How could I forget?

Every day I ask myself that question.

To properly form new memories, there are some things you need to let fade away. Or at least, forget to remember for a while.

Otherwise everything gets tangled in vines.Or salted in brine. Or trapped under ice. Or stuck in the mud.

Like a river, all of this runs through me.

I try to build myself a raft, while wading waste deep. It isn’t easy. It isn’t super effective. But what alternatives are there?

Step out and find shore? What if there isn’t any? What if it’s just cliff upon cliff upon cliff reaching all the way to the heavens? What then?

So instead, I just watch out for falling trees, snap off some branches where I can, and whittle away while the waters wash over me.

Rivers upon rivers upon oceans of nonsense. Images absent of connection. Ten thousand hot air balloons inside of a bubble of sulferous gas, sixteen thousand leagues under the sea.

I need a plumber to come drain my subconscious. Snake out the soap scum and the clumps of hair and the caked together toothpaste, and the long forgotten comb that just went “plop” down the pipe.

Let all of this flicker right by me as I fall. Down through a net, then another, then another, until I’m moving so slowly that even though the last one still does not hold, I land with a gentle thud and nothing more than some dusty scrapes, no broken bones.

This is home. This is what I know.

For me, this is what it looks like to let go.

2021w19

  • Went on my first trip out of state since Feb 2020, and the first trip with friends in an even longer time. Vermont/New Hampshire were great!
  • Poured my dad’s ashes into a brook near his cabin in Vermont. He died almost a year ago, but I was avoiding travel because of the pandemic, and also just… felt blocked from paying last respects.
  • Started working on transition plans with the clients I will be pausing work for during the summer, as I take a couple months to recharge and also work on new things that will help shift my business towards things that are more sustainable for me over the long haul. This is not the easiest road to navigate, but just grinding through it and hoping it will pay off in the long run.
  • Ate lots and lots and lots of fiddleheads.
  • Visited a horse cemetery, after following a sign directly in front of an ice cream parlor that said “horse cemetery” with a big arrow on it. This is a thing I did not realize existed. There were… three dead horses from over 100 years ago, preserved in perpetuity.
  • Laughed more in the last 72 hours than I probably have in the past year combined. But also got incredibly exhausted, and definitely need to do what I can to make this coming week a bit more low key.

2021w18

  • Finished preparing my 2020 taxes, finally.
  • Dealt with various administrative chores for my dad’s estate.
    (probate in three states is uh… not fun)
  • Held my dog in her last moments before she died.
    (Vet thinks it was a stroke)
  • Bought a green laser and got into various hijinx with it.
    (It reaches all the way across the New Haven harbor!!!)
  • Celebrated the kids’ mom buying a very nice condo in Branford.
  • Made this list, in lieu of a proper post, but… in the hopes of getting back here to write more often soon enough.

Equinox (Again)

We spin and spin and spin and spin and spin and spin and spin and spin and spin and spin and spin and spin and spin and spin and spin and spin and spin and spin and spin and spin and…

… we complete yet another loop, but time travels in a spiral rather than a circle. Back in the same place in some ways, but also hurtling toward a whole other galaxy in another dimension.

Nothing but grains of sand, jumbled up in space, falling through a Klein bottle.

Spring Ahead

Last night my Mom and I made pierogis together for the first time ever.

I didn’t realize it until we got started, but this for her had little to do with the food itself, and much more with trying to discover how to make them the way her mom made them. Her mom gave her a recipe, but that recipe (like oh so many traditional family recipes), was either intentionally or unintentionally flat out wrong and so it never got her even close to what she remembered from when she was young.

Pretty recently, mom finally got another version of the recipe from one of her cousins, and it was somewhat closer to “the real thing”, but still not quite right. Mom was still stressed, almost even moreso, because knowing we had roughly the right ingredients and proportions meant that all that was left was the “how” part.

Mom said (and it’s an exaggeration, for sure, because like seemingly all moms, she’s a great cook), that she is bad with dough and will never be good with dough. I totally forgot because it had been quite a while since I had done it from scratch, but I am not bad with dough! I’ve made dumplings from scratch, made pierogis (not my family recipe, but stuff I found online), made ravioli, pizzas, etc.

So we made small adjustments and discoveries along the way, as we worked on mom’s mission. We screwed some things up, then we fixed them. We wrestled with following the instructions on the page vs. guessing at what her mom might have actually done.

In the end, it was all about going by the feel of things, at every step along the way. Is this too dry? Too sticky? Too thick? Too thin? Do we have too much filling? Too little? Is the filling smooth enough, but not too smooth?

Do we pull them out of the water just as soon as they float? Or was it six minutes? Or something else? Let’s try them in tiny batches, figure it out.

My kitchen became a mini-test kitchen for replicating a specific memory that I couldn’t recall myself, but needed to interpret through my mom’s reaction to the things we tried together. I needed to figure out how to suggest gentle tweaks or adjustments to somebody who is both a much better cook than me, and who was on a personal mission to stay true to specific traditional roots.

At some point well after midnight, we bit into something that definitely wasn’t my mom’s mom’s pierogis, but was the closest she had ever gotten to making them “right.”

We didn’t write anything down. Maybe we should have. Or maybe just knowing what it feels like is what matters most, and can’t be put into words.

Maracatu

Last Thursday, I performed in a recital for the first time. It was scary, but not nearly as much as I expected it to be. There were about 20 people there (via Zoom), and I was the only performer playing guitar music. Others sang, a few played piano, and one played viola.

I felt proud after participating in this first recital, for two reasons: Because no matter how it went, it had taken me from “Never performed in public before” to “Have performed” — and because it represented a milestone after four years of hard work and exploration. Simply showing up and doing it was enough, but it actually went kind of OK, so that was a bonus!

My path into music started with noodling on a ukulele in the winter break of 2016, and then it took root in my head and heart so deeply that I can count on my hands and feet the days I have not at least played something on a string instrument since then. I can’t remember exactly when I switched to guitar, but I think it was about 2.5 years ago.

I cannot possibly put into words how much music has been a saving grace over the last several years. I am still a novice with so much room to grow, but every moment spent playing has been one that brought me joy.

Here’s a recording of the song I played for the recital, Maracatu:

Far from perfect, but… overall, not so bad for a beginner!

Static

Shocking, but not in the live wire sort of way.
A trillion electrons scattered upon a blanket,
Or nestled within cascading waves of hair.

A infinitesimal lightning bolt waiting to strike.
Electrostatic but dry, devoid of falling rains.
Not silent, but free from bangs and booms.

…The jolt still sends you leaping across the room.

Your hand pulls back–spraying sparks into something you once thought was cozy.